As in many of his other works, Bradbury explores time in Dandelion Wine. The book begins on the first day of summer, 1928, and continues on chronologically until the last day of summer of the same year. This is calendar time, the day-by-day progression throughout the year. Bradbury underscores this progression through the scenes where the boys and Grandfather make dandelion wine, each bottle labeled for each day in the summer. As the number of bottles increases, the days of the summer dwindle. Calendars and clocks, however, only represent the kind of time that is measurable; these devices divide time up into ever smaller, equal divisions. Yet anyone who has ever thought about it knows that sometimes time passes more quickly or more slowly than at other times. Thus, while the calendar or the clock mark a linear, chronological progression, there is much that these devices do not reveal about time.
Bradbury introduces another notion of time through Colonel Freeleigh, a man who is able to travel freely through his memories, so much so that the children call him a Time Machine. When he tells the children his stories, he is able to transport them into a different kind of time, one that is cyclic, or circular. This is the time of stories and memory, moments that can be revisited again and again. Likewise, through the rituals of summer, those things the children do again and again, they are able to create a kind of sacred space that exists out of time.
Bradbury also uses clocks and calendars metaphorically in this novel to represent the time allotted to a person for a life. When Doug discovers he is alive, he suddenly realizes that he himself is a timepiece: “Twelve years old and only now! Now discovering this rare timepiece, this clock gold-bright and guaranteed to run three score and ten . . .” Thus, the passage of time through the summer in Dandelion Wine also serves to remind the reader that each human being has a metaphoric spring, and autumn in his or her life.
In Dandelion Wine, Doug experiences both kinds of time, chronological as well as ritual. In the tension between the two, Doug finds himself facing the most important questions of human existence.
Bradbury is often accused of finding technology distasteful or negative. In an article in English Journal, Marvin E. Mengeling notes that Bradbury’s “distrust of too much technology and mechanization” is a major theme in Dandelion Wine. In this novel, Green Town seems poised on the brink of a new age, one in which technology threatens to change human existence. Bradbury’s attitude toward technology seems to be that people need to remember what is important in life. Leo Auffmann’s attempt to build a machine that will give people happiness, for example, does just the opposite. People who use the machine find that because they see things they never knew they missed, they are now much more unhappy than they have ever been. In this case, then, Bradbury seems to be criticizing the way technology leads people into the desire for things, and for more technology. The real source of happiness, however, is not more things, but rather family. Indeed, Bradbury’s concern with technology is also tied to his concern with time. He seems to be telling the reader that time with family and with friends is the way time ought to be spent, rather than monkeying around with new machines.
Just as Douglas discovers early in the book that he is alive, and that he is part of...
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a larger world in which everyone and everything is alive, he also discovers later in the book that he will eventually die, just as everyone and everything will eventually die. This is a difficult concept for Douglas; however, the realization follows logically from not only what Doug can reason, but also from what he observes. In the space of a few short weeks, Doug loses his Great-grandma, Colonel Freeleigh, and Helen Loomis. In addition, he finds the corpse of the Lonely One’s murder victim. The realization is overwhelming for Doug, and he falls into a strange illness, one that threatens to kill him. Only through the intervention of Mr. Jonas, and through his own decision that living is preferable to death does he recover. But the introduction of death as a theme inDandelion Wine shifts the book away from a sentimental recollection of the perfect boyhood and toward a darker understanding of human existence.